PH to stick with arbitration under UNCLOS to pursue Spratly claims
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines reiterated, on Thursday, its commitment to the peaceful settlement of its claims in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea area through arbitration proceedings under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.
Speaking before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ foreign ministers meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario emphasized on Thursday, that “the Philippines’ recourse to arbitration is firmly rooted in the tradition of good global citizenship.”
“The Philippines shall always adhere to the peaceful settlements of disputes through lawful, non-coercive and transparent means that promote the healthy functioning of an equitable and rules-based international system,” said the Department of Foreign Affairs head.
Del Rosario asserted that Manila’s arbitration initiative, “when objectively considered, will benefit all parties.”
“For the Philippines, it will clearly define what is legitimately ours, specifically maritime entitlements under the UNCLOS with regards to our fishing rights to resources and our right to enforce our laws within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),” he said.
For China, “an arbitration award will finally clarify its lawful maritime entitlements in the South China Sea,” he pointed out.
“This will enable China to provide responsible leadership towards fostering stability in the region,” according to Del Rosario.
At the same time, he reiterated that “the Philippines’ desire to have a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea has not changed.”
“We will continue to work with ASEAN and China in crafting the COC and in implementing our commitments under the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC),” he said, adding ASEAN should “focus on solidarity in taking a stronger position on violations of the DOC.”
In a related development, the DFA said China had yet to respond to the Philippines’ request for clarification of its new maritime rules in the West Philippine Sea.
Beijing “did not reply to our note (verbale),” Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Sometime in late December, China sent its first patrol vessel to disputed parts of the West Philippine Sea ahead of its enforcement of new rules that authorized Chinese border police to board search and expel foreign vessels from waters Beijing considers its territory.
The patrol chief Haixun 21 reportedly sailed into the high seas under the administration of the Maritime Safety Administration of Hanan Province from which China administers the West Philippine Sea.
Del Rosario then said that if the reports proved correct, the Philippines would ask the Chinese why they were patrolling and in what areas.
The new rules came into effect on January 1, but ASEAN nations and the United States had asked China for clarification on their purpose and extent.
China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea, but the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei claim parts of the sea within their EEZs. Taiwan also claims some islands in the same sea.
The Philippines and Vietnam are the more strident claimants, both pressing for the resolution of their claims according to UNCLOS and for a code of conduct in the region to prevent the conflicting claims from erupting into armed clashes.
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